Some of our favourite sci-fi films and TV programmes have, at their core, a partnership which hooks us in. Often the two are polar opposites, sometimes they are thrown together by chance, but they connect, spark and we join them for the ride.
To celebrate the release on DVD of Lost Girl Season Two we set out to find the most enduring and endearing sci-fi partnerships around and there was no shortage of contenders. In the end we went for the duos who led us through some of our favourite adventures, and there are many more bubbling under.
Here are some of our favourites, let us know yours in the comments.
Kirk & Spock (Star Trek)
The only factor that could have prevented this pair turning up on our list of favourite sci-fi duos was DeForest Kelley’s Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy, who was always this writer’s favourite member of the USS Enterprise crew. But as much as Bones contributes to Star Trek’s lead trio through his interactions with both Kirk and Spock, it’s the relationship between the Captain and his First Officer that’s Star Trek’s most compelling. Oh, and before we dive into the whys, let’s be clear here, we’re talking strictly William Shatner’s Kirk and Leonard Nimoy’s Spock Prime. Because as much as we love Pine and Quinto’s young upstarts, their relationship just isn’t quite there yet.
While almost always pursuing the same goals, Kirk was driven by his emotions, and Spock by logic, which was always great fodder for conflict within their relationship, yet could also lead to occasional moments of deeply profound and affecting understanding between the pair. And even when they can’t quite understand each other, there’s a deep respect between them that only grew stronger throughout their time together on The Original Series. By the time Star Trek made the transition from the small to the big screen, the history that they shared only lent their relationship even more weight, and that’s entirely why that moment from the end of The Wrath of Khan packs such a devastating punch.
Lister & Rimmer (Red Dwarf)
When Dave Lister emerges from a stasis booth three million years in the future, he discovers that he’s the last human being alive. Fearing that he may be driven insane by loneliness, Red Dwarf’s ship computer, Holly, decides to resurrect a member of the dead crew as a hologram to keep him sane. And it’s not the love of Lister’s life, Christine Kochanski, nor is it one of his old drinking buddies, Petersen, Selby or Chen. No, it’s Arnold Judas Rimmer; the complete and utter smeghead who Lister once had the misfortune to both work under and share a bunk with.
Although having very little in common, and enjoying a relationship that largely consists of trading insults and trying their very best to irritate one another, the two do just about manage to keep each other sane and sometimes even manage to work together when they find themselves in a scrape. There’s not usually much room for comedy when it comes to a sci-fi based list, but Rimmer and Lister here provide a glorious exception. As great as Kryten and The Cat both were, Lister and Rimmer were always at the core of Red Dwarf, and it tended to be the scenes they shared that were the most acerbically funny.
Mulder & Scully (The X-Files)
Today actually marks the twentieth anniversary of The X-Files, and even two decades, 202 episodes and two movies later, there’s still an appetite for more, and that’s largely down to the relationship between FBI Special Agent Fox William Mulder, and FBI Special Agent Dr. Dana Katherine Scully. It’s probably no bad thing that they have two of the coolest names in sci-fi that absolutely roll off the tongue and sound great together, but that’s not the only reason that the two became one of the most memorable partnerships in science fiction.
It’s a wonderful credit to both the performances of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, as well as the writers of The X-Files, that throughout the series run it was the relationship between the pair that was as interesting to fans as any of the central mysteries of the show. The chemistry they shared was unparalleled. What began as a platonic friendship quickly showed signs of a bubbling undercurrent of sexual tension, and over the course of the series the two eventually became romantically entangled in one of television’s very best will they/won’t they relationships.
When their partnership was broken for the final two seasons of The X-Files, the show was never really the same, although thankfully we were eventually rewarded with some sort of closure on their relationship in the otherwise disappointing The X-Files: I Want to Believe.
Klaatu & Gort (The Day The Earth Stood Still)
No, we’re definitely not talking about Keanu Reeves and a heap of CGI pixels. We’re instead making the case for Michael Rennie’s Klaatu, a humanoid alien who has come to visit Earth to deliver a message, and Lock Martin inside a clunky rubber suit as Gort, Klaatu’s eight-foot robot companion. While many of the other duos on this list are present because of the relationship they establish with each other, Klaatu and Gort are here because of the effectiveness with which they work together and deliver their message.
Klaatu demonstrates his power when he makes the Earth ‘stand still’ by neutralising all electric power – except in the cases where it would compromise human safety, of course – around the world, while Gort, a robot of immense power, is able to disintegrate weapons using a ray that emits from his visor. As well as providing us with one of the coolest phrases in sci-fi history in “Klaatu barada nikto,” the pair also impart a terrifying warning to the people of Earth from the rest of the Universe: if human violence and aggression spreads into space too, Gort and his kind will be sent back to destroy us all. If we had a message to send to a dangerous planet, we’d probably sent Klaatu and Gort too.
Dr David Bowman & HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey)
We’re sure that Dave would have loved to have been on this list with his old buddy Frank Poole, but thanks to HAL’s lack of patience with Frank and his “human error,” the relationship that leaves the greatest impression in 2001 is the one between Dave and HAL. The computer, who professes to be “foolproof and incapable of error,” turns on his human colleagues, killing those left inside the ship, as well as Frank, and leaves Dave for dead outside the airlock.
This is man vs machine, but we’re not sure whom to root for. Sure, HAL has gone computer crazy and started offing the members of the Jupiter Mission, but when he begins to demonstrate true emotions, isn’t Dave just as guilty when he attempts to turn him off. Contrast Dave’s dead-eyed determination to shut down HAL with the computer’s pleas for him to stop, and, well, we know the point that Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke were trying to get across. It’s one of cinema’s most iconic sequences, and it’s the fascinating contrast between Dave and HAL that makes them one of sci-fi’s greatest duos.
Doc Brown & Marty McFly (Back to the Future)
It should really stretch Back to the Future’s credibility that a seemingly cool teenage kid who plays the guitar and has a cute girlfriend would be best friends with a barmy, white-haired professor, but it doesn’t, and Marty and The Doc’s relationship sets a precedent for the whole film. We’re introduced to them as friends, and we don’t doubt it for a minute, and their bond is only reinforced when Marty is sent back to meet the 1955 version of Doc Brown and they immediately hit it off.
Of course the time travel and Marty’s relationship with his parents is crucial to Back to the Future, but the relationship between Marty and Doc Brown is at its heart. We’re rooting for Marty to get his parents back together and return safely to 1985, but it almost doesn’t matter if he gets back and The Doc is dead, so he spends most of the film trying to warn his mentor about those pesky Libyans. Just listen to Marty scream “Nooooo! Bastards!” when Doc Brown’s gunned down, or the look of despair on his face when he returns to 1985 and thinks he’s witnessing the event unfold exactly as it did before.
Oh, and let’s not forget that Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd are bags of fun whenever they’re in a scene together. It’s no surprise, considering this pair, that Back to the Future is among the best films of all time.
T-800 & John Connor (Terminator 2: Judgment Day)
Again, we need some clarification here, because in sci-fi we tend to be dealing with a number of different versions of characters with some frequency. We’re of course only talking about the reprogrammed version of the T-800 from Terminator 2, because the first movie version of that Terminator has no direct relationship with JC, other than trying to wipe him from existence. No, we’re talking about the friendlier version that turns up to save him from the T-1000, and does a bit of bonding in the process.
Sarah Connor’s a total badass in the movie, but while that’s awesome, she’s probably not the best parental figure for young John. While he’ll get to be good buddies with his dad in the future, John’s missing a father figure when he needs one most, and it was an inspired decision from James Cameron to allow Arnie’s Terminator to fill that void. They share some really sweet scenes together whenever they’re not busy avoiding Robert Patrick in all his melty metal glory.
WALL-E & EVE (WALL-E)
It’s a tale as old as time. A mute, slightly deranged robot who’s the last of his kind and spends his days crushing trash into cubes on a dystopian wasteland Earth, falls in love with a high-tech robot, but she stops paying attention to him as soon as she gets her hands on his plant. The screwy, rusty little robot just wants to hold her hand, just like in his favourite movie, Hello, Dolly!, but the glossier robot is oblivious to his affections until she’s completed her mission and returned the plant to her ship.
WALL-E may be a science-fiction movie with a serious environmental message, and at times it’s also a thrilling action adventure, but what’s often overlooked is its beautiful romance. From their first meeting when EVE tries to blow WALL-E into tiny pieces, to the heart-breaking finale in which we get to see the literal spark between them, it’s a whirlwind romance that contains all of the typical trappings of the genre, whilst never straying from the main task at hand. Our hero isn’t on a mission to return humans to Earth, nor is he trying to save them from their malevolent Autopilot, he just wants to find the girl of his dreams and somehow happens to become a hero along the way. Their relationship drives WALL-E’s plot and gives it emotional heft, and we’re getting teary just thinking about it.